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Alexandra Cuffel

Principal Investigator; Subproject Middle East

Alexandra Cuffel is professor of Jewish religion, past and present in the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) and the History Department at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. She received her Ph.D. from New York University in Medieval History with a focus on medieval Jewish-Christian relations and a minor field in cultural relations in Egypt and the Levant during Fatimid-Mamluk rule. Her work focuses primarily on religious polemic and gender among Jews, Christians, and Muslims in medieval western Europe and the Middle East, with interests in the history of medicine, magic, and mysticism. In addition to articles in these fields, she is the author of Gendering Disgust in Medieval Religious Polemic (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007).

She has received a number of research fellowships in the USA and Germany, and since starting at Ruhr University, Bochum, she has also been awarded funding from the GIF (German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research) for the project “The Ten Lost Tribes” A Cross-Cultural Approach” of which she is co-Principle Investigator with Micha Perry of Haifa University, and the EU in the form of an ERC Consolidator Grant for the project, “Jews and Christians in the East: Strategies of Interaction from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean” (JewsEast) of which she is the Principle Investigator. She is also a member of the ERC Consolidator Project Armenia Entangled: Connectivity and Cultural Encounters in Medieval Eurasia (ArmEn), PI Zara Pogossian.



Prof. Dr. Alexandra Cuffel

Ruhr-Universität Bochum CERES
Universitätsstr. 90a
D-44789 Bochum

Room 1.07
+49 (0)234 - 32-22336

CV and Publications



  • Since 2012 - Professor of Jewish Religion, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany

  • 2011 - Adjunct Assistant Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY

  • 2004 - 2008 - Assistant Professor of pre-modern World History, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN,

  • 2006- 2007 - Visiting Assistant Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies and the History of Christianity, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA

  • 2002 -2004 - Visiting Assistant Professor of Medieval History, Adjunct in Near Eastern and Jewish Studies Dept., University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  .

  • 2001-2004 - Assistant Professor of Medieval History, Affiliated faculty in Religious Studies Program, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

  •  2010-2011, 2009, 2008, 1997-2000, 1994 - Adjunct Instructor in History, Women’s Studies, and Philosophy and Religion, The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College), Ewing, New Jersey. 

  • 2009 - Translator for the Toledot Yesu project at Princeton University – Judeo-Arabic versions.

  • 2000 -2001 - Research and Editorial Assistant, Cairo Geniza Project, Princeton University

Education and degrees

  • 2002 - Ph.D. in Medieval History: New York University 
    Dissertation: “Filthy Words/Filthy Bodies: Gendering Disgust in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-century Jewish-Christian Polemic”
    Major fields:  Medieval Europe (Jewish-Christian relations
    Minor field:   Medieval Islam (Fatimid and Mamluk Cultural History)

  • 1990 - MPhil in Medieval History: University of Cambridge, Girton College (England).
    Thesis: "Petrus Alfonsi and Joseph ibn Zabara: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Relations in the Twelfth Century"

  • 1988-1989 - Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel (Germany). Berlin-Kiel Scholar in Arabic and Religious Studies

  • 1988 - BA with Departmental Honors: Indiana University,  Bloomington, Indiana
    Individualized Major in Medieval Studies


  • Shared Saints and Festivals among Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Medieval Mediterranean. (Amsterdam: ARC Humanities Press) Forthcoming

  • Gendering Disgust in Medieval Religious Polemic. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007)

Edited Books

  • Jewish-Christian Relations: From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. A Source History (600-1800) 3 vols. ed. Alexandra Cuffel, Barbara Roggema in collaboration with Sophia Dege-Müller, Bar Kribus, Istvan Perczel, Zara Pogossian, Stephen Rapp. (Amsterdam: ARC Humanities Press) Forthcoming

  • Material Encounters between Jews and Christians: From the Silk and Spice Routes to the Highlands of Ethiopia. Ed. Bar Kribus, Zara Pogossian and Alexandra Cuffel (Amsterdam: ARC Humanities Press) Forthcoming

  • Body Trouble: Religious Boundaries for Sex, Gender and Corporeality, ed. Alexandra Cuffel, Ana Echevarria, Georgios Halkias (Routledge) Forthcoming

  • Entangled Hagiographies of the Religious Other, ed. Alexandra Cuffel and Nikolas Jaspert (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing) Forthcoming

  •  Religion, Gender, and Culture in the pre-modern world, ed. Brian Britt and Alexandra Cuffel. (New York: Palgrave Press, 2007)

Articles and Book Chapters​​​

  • “Seductive Sounds: Song, Chant, and Bells in Medieval Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Encounters” forthcoming in Vorträge und Forschungen

  • “The Toledot Yeshu in the context of Polemic and Sīra Literature in the Middle East from the Fatimid to the Mamluk era,” in Toledoth Yeshu in Context, ed. Daniel Barbu and Yaacov Deutsch (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020) 131-167

  • “Holiness, Saints and Sanctity in Judaism,” in Saints and Sanctity in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Striving for Remembrance, ed. Alexandre Coello de la Rosa and Linda Jones. (New York: Routledge, 2020)

  • "Conversion and Religious Polemic between Jews and Christians in Egypt from Fatimid-Mamluk periods," in Minorities in Contact in the Medieval Mediterranean, ed. Clara Almagro Vidal, Jessica Tearney-Pearce, Luke Yarbrough (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020) 71-103

  • “Senses, Religion, and Religious Encounter: Literature Review and Research Perspectives,” Co-authored with Licia Di Giacinto and Volkhard Krech. Entangled Religions, 10 (2019)

  • “Triple Entanglement: a Christian Anti-Biography of Muhammad in a Jewish Anti-Christian Polemic,” in  Entangled Hagiographies of the Religious Other, ed. Alexandra Cuffel and Nikolas Jaspert (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019) 153-171

  • “Coming together in the Air: Mysticism and the Queering of Jesus in the Toledot Yeshu,” in Religious Boundaries for Sex, Gender and Corporeality, ed. Alexandra Cuffel, Ana Echevarria, Georgios Halkias (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018) 145-163

  • “Historical Engagements and Interreligious Encounters – Jews and Christians in Premodern and Early Modern Asia and Africa” co-authored with Ophira Gamliel. Entangled Religions, 6 (2018) 1-33

  • “The Sea as Magical Stage: Miracles and (Un)Holy Names in the Chronicle of Aḥima‘aẓ,” in Ein Meer und seine Heiligen: Hagiographie im mittelalterlichen Mediterraneum,  ed. Marco di Branco and Nikolas Jaspert, Christian Neumann (Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh GmbH, 2018) 229-244

  • “Legal but not Licit: Customary Foodways as Banned Markers of Religious Identity between Muslims and non-Muslims the medieval Mediterranean,” in Essen und Fasten - interreligiöse Abgrenzung, Konkurrenz und Austauschprozesse : Food and
    Fasting - Interreligious Differentiations, Competition and Exchange
    , ed. Dorothea Weltecke (=Beihefte zum Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 76) (Köln, Weimar, Wien, 2017)

  • “From Geographical Migration to Transmigration of Souls: Negotiating Religious Difference and Space among Jews in Early Modern Safed,” in Locating Religions: Contact, Diversity and Translocality, ed. Nikolas Jaspert and Reinhold Glei.  (Leiden:  Brill, 2016) 64-93

  • “Jewish Tribes and Women in the Genesis and Battle of the Dajjal: Nu‘ayim ibn Ḥammād al-Khuzā‘ī al-Marwzī’s Kitāb al-Fitan,” in Peoples of the Apocalypse: Eschatological Beliefs and Political Scenarios, ed. Wolfram Brandes, Felicitas Schmieder, and Rebekka Voẞ (Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2016)

  • “Jesus, the Misguided Magician: The (Re-)emergence of the Toledot Yeshu in thirteenth-century and its Retelling in Ibn Sahula’s Fables from the Distant Past,” Henoch  37/1 (2015) 4-16

  • “Judaistik /Jewish Studies,” in Handbuch der Mediterranistik, ed. Mihran Dabag, Dieter Haller, Nikolas Jaspert, Achim Lichtenberger (Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh GmbH, 2015) 181-195

  • “Between Epic Entertainment and Polemical Exegesis: Jesus and the Empress Helen as Anti-heroes in Toledot Yeshu,” in Medieval Exegesis and Religious Difference: Commentary, Conflict and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean, ed. Ryan Szpiech (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015) 155-170

  • “Gendered Visions and Transformations of Women’s Spirituality in Hayyim Vital’s Sefer Ḥezyonot.” Jewish Studies Quarterly, 19/4 (2012) 339-384

  •  “Environmental Disasters and Political Dominance in Shared Festivals and Intercessions among Medieval Muslims, Christians and Jews,” in Muslims and Others in Sacred Space, ed. Margaret Cormack (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) 108-146

  • “‘Ibn Sahula’s Meshal ha-Qadmoni as restorative polemic.” Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, 3/2 (2011) 165-186

  • “The Beast” in Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, vol. 3, eds. Hermann Spieckermann, Choon-Leong Seow, Hans-Josef Klauck, Paul Mendes Flohr, Bernard McGinn, Eric Zielkowski (Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Publishers, 2011)

  • “Gender Segregation and pilgrimage,” Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2009)

  • “Menstruation and pilgrimage,” Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2009)

  • “The Matter of Others: Menstrual Blood and Uncontrolled Semen in thirteenth-century Kabbalists’ polemic against Christians, “bad” Jews, and Muslims,” in Negotiating Community and Difference in Medieval Europe: Gender, Power, Patronage and the Authority of Religion in Latin Christendom: Festschrift in honor of Penelope D. Johnson, ed. Katherine Allen Smith and Scott Wells (Leiden/Boston: E.J. Brill, 2009) 249-284.

  • “Polemicizing Women’s Bathing among Medieval and Early Modern Muslims and Christians,” in The Nature and Function of Water, Baths, Bathing, and Hygiene from Antiquity through the Renaissance, ed. Cynthia Kosso and Anne Scott (Leiden: E.J. Brill Press, 2009) 171-188.

  • “Between Reverence and Fear: Jewish Women and Death in Medieval and Early Modern Ashkenaz,” in Women, Pain, and Death: Rituals and Everyday Life on the Margins of Europe and Beyond, ed. Evy Håland (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar’s Press, 2008) 143-169.

  • “Excerpts from Murshid al-zuwwār ilā qubūr al-abrār, al-musannā al-Durr al-munaẓẓam fī ziyāra al-jabal al-Muqaṭṭam by Abd al-Rahmān ibn al-Faqih Uthmān on Sayyida Nafīsa.” Metamorphoses: The Journal of the five college faculty seminar on literary translation, 15/1-2 (2007) 138-139.

  • “Reorienting Christian ‘Amazons’: Christian women warriors in medieval Islamic literature in the context of the crusades,” in Religion, Gender, and Culture in the pre-modern world, ed. Brian Britt and Alexandra Cuffel. (New York: Palgrave Press, 2007) 137-166.

  • “From Practice to Polemic: shared saints and festivals as ‘women’s religion’ in the medieval Mediterranean.”  The Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 68/3 (2005) 401-419

  • “Immaculate Conception.” Dictionary of the Middle Ages Supplement, vol. 14 ed. William Chester Jordan (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2004)

  •  “‘Henceforward All Generations Will Call Me Blessed’: Medieval Christian Tales of Non-Christian Marian Veneration.” Mediterranean Studies 12 (2003) 37-60

  •  “Call and Response: European Jewish Emigration to Egypt and Palestine in the Middle Ages.” Jewish Quarterly Review, XC, nos. 1-2 (July-October, 1999) 61-101

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